Drapanos village, home of ESA, sits 300m above sea level and boasts stunning views of Crete's famous Lefka Ori mountains. Drapanos mountain is a designated Natura 2000 area of natural beauty with wonderful sightings of native Cretan birds. Below ESA, secluded, clean and unspoilt beaches with crystal clear water are a natural treasure for sustainable diving activities and marine research.
The Apokoronas region of Crete is truly inspirational and breathtakingly beautiful. Drapanos is a traditional rural village with a small and thriving community which exemplifies the virtues of sustainability. Just a short drive to other scenic villages brings an array of sustainable business experiences and inspirational stories of thriving sustainable enterprises. The area is the perfect home for ESA.
The beautiful off-grid, bioclimatic ESA building includes a seminar hall and a dining room, both of which comfortably seat 50 people and a cosy kitchen and seating area that visitors refer to as a 'home'. ESA had been built in a seamless relationship with the surrounding 10,000 m2 of ancient olive groves and endemic fauna.
Purposely designed for immersive learning and action learning interventions, ESA has many energising breakout areas, inside and outside, to providing privacy and space for contemplation and reflection about personal development and organisational transformation.
Sustainability principles were rigorously adopted at every stage of designing and constructing ESA. All timber used in the building is Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Zero carbon natural materials such as straw-bales create the walls, along with handmade, sun-dried adobe bricks, made from the earth that was dug for the building foundations. These natural materials combined with bioclimatic design principles keep the building at a constantly comfortable temperature all year round.
ESA operates fully off-grid and relies on all energy requirements provided by the Cretan sunshine via a photovoltaic, solar power system with battery storage.
ESA was a pioneering design and construction at a time of deep economic crisis in Greece. The project was challenging as the issues of 'sustainability' were not understood or valued in Greece. One of the big challenges was the difficulty of getting the necessary building approvals for a 'sustainable building' approach which was not aligned with the current framework of Greek town planning and building regulations. This resulted in some delays, extra costs and compromises – for instance, being forced to use more concrete and steel than necessary.
The design and philosophy of ESA was ahead of the time and has since been a catalyst for changing building regulations for 'green building'. ESA has led the way and has been copied in Crete and elsewhere. ESA has been published internationally as an exemplary example of green building (see publications).
Architects and students from around the world visit ESA to learn first-hand about the 'health and well-being' benefits of 'biophilia' and building with natural materials. The processes of designing and building ESA are shared via training and education programmes, with urban planners and construction companies aiming to improve the quality of human life in the built environment.
Notably, a published research study undertaken at ESA in 2019 with 100 respondents suggests that green buildings like ESA have a net positive impact of reducing stress and anxiety.